PG&E's SmartMeter program took a beating at a tea party gathering in Cotati on Wednesday, with speakers calling the technology a threat to public health, personal privacy and consumers' budgets.

"The more you find out about this, the more scared you are," said Rob States, a Bay Area mechanical engineer and clean energy activist.

About 150 people attended the meeting sponsored by the North Bay Patriots, part of the national Tea Party Patriots.

PG&E was invited to make a presentation, but decided not to take part, said utility spokesman Jeff Smith.

"We concluded it would not be the best format for us to connect with our customers," he said.

Wednesday's event was the latest in a series of public relations headaches for the utility, which is in the process of installing more than 7 million of the wireless meters at customers' homes and businesses.

On Tuesday, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a one-year moratorium on SmartMeter installation, saying there needs to be more study of the risks. The symbolic vote is not expected to halt the program, however.

At Wednesday night's meeting in Cotati's Veterans Memorial Auditorium, States and two other anti-SmartMeter activists urged PG&E customers to resist the technology.

"It allows PG&E to literally look inside your house," said Jeffry Fawcett, a radio host and holistic health educator. It also permits the utility to charge more for energy during periods of peak demand, he said.

SmartMeters and other kinds of wireless equipment produce harmful radiation, said States. Numerous studies link cancer and other diseases to electromagnetic exposure, he said.

With a SmartMeter on every home, "there's no safe place in your neighborhood," he said.

PG&E's rollout violates the Constitution, said Jed Gladstein, an attorney, author and radio blogger.

"SmartMeters are the sharp end of a very long spear pointed at your freedoms," he said. He urged a wave of citizen lawsuits challenging the program.

PG&E disputes those kinds of charges, Smith said.

"A great wealth of scientific evidence demonstrates that the RF (radio frequency) in SmartMeters is safe," he said.

The SmartMeter program is designed to give consumers more control over their electrical usage, not to spy on them, Smith said. "We take the privacy concerns of our customers very seriously," he said.